Wayne Rooney scores a late goal at Anfield to give Manchester United victory
Before the game, there was no distracting Manchester United fans from some epically glorious moments at Liverpool over the years. The memories of Roy Keane rampaging up and down the Anfield turf is quickly replaced by Diego Forlan’s brace against Jerzy Dudek and then concludes with John O’Shea scoring a last minute goal at the Kop as United march on to the 2006/07 title. Much has played out in the eighty-two league matches at Anfield prior to this afternoon’s kick off and although both sides aren’t now fighting for top spot, both managers were well aware of the fortunes that awaited the victor.
Mid week saw both managers speak about title droughts, with Louis van Gaal suggesting that United would not go on such a barren run as Liverpool, who have not won the Championship since May 1990. The charismatic Jurgen Klopp, who eulogised about Sir Alex Ferguson – described the former Manchester United manager as “The John Lennon of football” – spoke about the fact that he could have been in the United dugout, had the timings been right. Both men have crossed paths before in Germany, with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund doing battle, but it was the Dutchman who has continued his run against United’s biggest rivals with a 1-0 smash and grab.
Wayne Rooney converted United’s only shot on target, whilst David De Gea saved United once again with an array of saves to keep out Emre Can, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson. The home side will feel hard done by as United were second best for the majority of the game. Louis van Gaal kept with his usually 4-2-3-1 formation, with Ander Herrera pushed up just behind Wayne Rooney who was leading the line. Despite Liverpool’s dominance, it is United who picked up all three points and are now two points behind Tottenham in fourth spot.
Super David De Gea< comes to the rescue again
It was as if with Real Madrid’s transfer ban announced, David De Gea showed Florentino Perez what indeed the Spanish club could well have had if they were serious about a bid for the Manchester United keeper last summer, rather than trying to buy the player on the cheap on the final day of the window. Of course, the most successful Spanish club of all time will feel victimised and send in sharp suited lawyers to draw out the process with appeal after appeal – but United fans are well aware of the massive achievement in keeping hold of the club’s most prized possession. The United faithful will also be well aware that the keeper needs to play in the Champions League each season if he is to progress and add to his criminal seven caps (due to the prolonged career of Iker Casillas) for the national team.
De Gea was United’s saviour yet again and was a colossus in goal all afternoon. He read the superb ball from Lucas through the middle for Lallana, who could only attempt to head past De Gea, who had already closed the space down superbly to force the Liverpool midfielder into taking his chance early. Henderson went close a few times following neat play just outside of United’s box, but his attempts were off target and didn’t trouble De Gea. United went into the break without troubling Simon Mignolet and it was definitely De Gea who was the busiest of the two keepers.
The second half saw why United fans regarding David De Gea as the best in Europe, with a string of saves that kept out Liverpool. Whether it was stopping a well struck shot from Emre Cam, on two separate occasions, or his cool and calm composure when plucking the ball out of the air from a cross – the Spaniard gave United much needed confidence that he wasn’t to be beaten on a day that most other sides would have conceded at Anfield. He was the difference at Anfield and Louis van Gaal knows how crucial it is to ensure that even when he does vacate the United hot seat in sixteen months time – De Gea is still United’s keeper and Real Madrid are told again where to go.
Smash and grab as Wayne Rooney breaks another record
It wasn’t one of the fiercest clashes of years gone by. The thundering tackles of Roy Keane or Jamie Carragher are a part of history and although Lucas and Marouane Fellaini had an early confrontation, the aggressive was few and far between in comparison to previous fixtures. Liverpool played well and deserved to win the game, had it not been for the brilliance of David De Gea within United’s goal. The away side looked void of any creativity or ideas in how to test Mignolet in Liverpool’s goal. United’s first half strategy was to knock the ball long, up to Wayne Rooney, who was beaten in the air again and again by Mamadou Sakho.
Chris Smalling knocked too many long balls in the first half that were intercepted
United’s only danger man was Anthony Martial, as he had been in recent games against Chelsea and Swansea City, who burst forward with powerful acceleration and pace to step away from Liverpool’s defenders. He was as effective as he has been in previous matches, but he is quickly becoming – with the exception of David De Gea, United’s most important player, and he is only 20 years old.
Wayne Rooney had not scored at Anfield in eleven years. His first and only goal before today had been his debut appearance against Liverpool for United back in the January of 2005. He is the only player still at the club who took to the field that day and in the time that has passed, he has won titles, a European Cup and broken countless records. He is eight goals away from matching Sir Bobby Charlton’s 249 goals for the club and today, he surpassed Thierry Henry for scoring the most goals for a single club in a Premier League era. Rooney has already broken Charlton’s 49 goals for England and will no doubt have United’s all time top goalscorer record in his sights.
To score the winning goal at Anfield, a long time since that’s happened to me, my first years at United, so I’ll be a bit selfish today and enjoy that more than most.”
– Wayne Rooney on his goal against Liverpool
Rooney has had a tough season, but is now in very good form. He was exceptional against Newcastle United in the week and has scored the winner against Swansea City and Sheffield United, in what was a dire performance against a League one side. Paul Scholes was right in saying that any striker would struggle to score in a Louis van Gaal side, with such limited chances – but it was Rooney’s general play that was a cause for concern for many United fans as he became less influential as the season evolved. The break following the 1-1 draw with Leicester City has done Rooney well, despite the club struggling and being eliminated from the Champions League. You would now not bet against Rooney going on to hit the nine goals he needs to get to 250 and will fancy his chances adding to his tally against Southampton next Saturday.
Diagrams provided using – FourFourTwo Statszone